Fr. Fitzgerald ended his notes on the parish with the words: “Fr. Bryant was appointed PP. Ad multos annos! Prospera, procede et regna!”
To clear the debt was a lasting concern: Fr. Bryant appealed to each family to contribute 6d per week (21/2p today) to the debt fund. It did not prove easy. A former parishioner recalls: “One of the most important features of parish life in the late ‘forties’ and early ‘fifties’ was the annual Christmas bazaar. Every parish organisation had a stall,” — this tradition still continues — “rationing was still in force, as were clothes coupons. Doors opened at 3 pm: the rush to the food and clothing stalls would have given the All Blacks lessons on how to overcome human obstacles! In the weeks prior to the bazaar, a series of whist drives was held in private houses; these events did much to build up community spirit.”
From 1947 dates the foundation of the Scout Group, with Fr. B. Connaughton as scoutmaster.
In 1950 they went on pilgrimage to Rome; overseas pilgrimages have since become a regular feature of the parish, culminating, in Jubilee year, with one to Lourdes and one to the Holy Land. We still have a Guides and Brownies group.
In 1948 a Council of the Knights of St. Columba was set up: the KSC are now the largest parish organisation. The Union of Catholic Mothers was also introduced, at the insistence of Sister Catherine, SVP, the Parish Sister; they are still very much with us. In the immediate post-war years numerous refugees from Poland settled in Willesden Green and a community of Polish Jesuits was established at 182 Walm Lane. A regular feature of Polish life became a 1pm Sunday Mass in Polish at St. Mary Magdalen, a tradition which still continues.
At last, in 1958, the debt had been cleared and Bishop Cashman was able to consecrate the church; Archbishop Godfrey presided over the Mass. The Willesden Chronicle enthused that, with the debt paid, our (non-existent) church bell could at last be tolled after 20 years!
For Fr. Bryant it was now possible to think of improvements. The original wooden baldacchino over the High Altar had warped and, despite attention, was untidy: Fr. Bryant had the present structure erected over a firm steel framework and chose the inscription: 0 MEMORIALE MORTIS DOMINI — St. Thomas Aquinas’ “Oh, remembrance of the Lord’s death”.
The parallel statues of St. Mary Magdalen and, later, the Sacred Heart (the latter is of wood, despite appearances) were placed in position, each under a miniature baldacchino.
Next Fr. Bryant had new benches purpose-made by a local firm; he was very insistent that they should be comfortable, whether for kneeling or for listening to long sermons; many people were invited to try a prototype for fit. Those in use till then had come from the old Our Lady of Compassion, augmented by discards from another church. Some of these are still in the organ loft: they are not comfortable, especially if you try to kneel upright. Finally, the old, canvas Stations of the Cross were replaced by a hand carved wooden set from the Tirol.